Protecting Farmland in New England

American Farmland Trust helped to permanently protect more than 285,000 acres of New England’s best farmland – saving this rich, bountiful landscape for future generations.

Our Role

AFT pioneered agriculture conservation easements, helped start and train agricultural land trusts, and advocated for farmland protection funding in state legislatures.

Our successes:

  • AFT's advocacy efforts resulted in robust state funding for farmland protection. AFT led the advocacy effort resulting in Massachusetts and Connecticut each devoting $10 million a year from a bond authorization to protect farmland. AFT supported a 2014 bond initiative in Rhode Island that provides $3 million each year for the purchase of development rights. Moving forward, AFT's advocacy efforts will focus on restoring funding for New Hampshire's Agricultural Lands Preservation Program.
  • New funding mechanisms for farmland protection. AFT helped to develop the legislation for Connecticut's innovative Community Investment Act (CIA) and then led the coalition that successfully advocated for its approval, raising millions of dollars for the state's Farmland Preservation Program; to support dairy farms; to reinvest in agricultural infrastructure; and to help match farmland sellers and seekers. AFT encouraged Maine to establish and then implement their Voluntary Municipal Farm Support Program, giving town governments a new tool to protect local farmland in exchange for reduced property taxes.
  • Developed a model agricultural conservation easement for Connecticut and trained local land trusts and town officials in how to implement it. We will take on a similar project in New Hampshire in 2015.
  • Advocated for "regional equity" in the federal Farm Bill, ensuring minimum funding to meet demand for federal conservation programs and bringing millions in federal conservation funds to the region.

Looking Ahead

AFT envisions New England stopping the loss of productive farmland and restoring agricultural landscapes to meet growing demand for local food. Our vision is part of a broader New England Food Vision, which strategizes on how New England might produce 50% of its food needs by 2060.

Priorities include:

  • Ensuring that every New England state has effective farmland policies to promote smart growth, reduce farmland loss, and bring more land into active, environmentally sustainable agricultural production. Our New England Food Policy Project identifies "blue ribbon" policies around the region and areas needing additional exploration and analysis.
  • Protecting farmland for farming. Not all conservation easements are created equally. The best protect productive farm soils while also accommodating farm enterprises. Increasingly, we must educate land trusts and state and local officials about farm-friendly easements that can keep farmers on the land and the land in farming.